The Digital Download: Ad blocking, online video, Facebook updates on the rise

New statistics show the explosion of original digital programming viewership and ad blocker usage. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Amazon have new features, too.

This week in digital was a series of increases. Newly-released figures from Adblock Plus and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) show that ad blocking and original digital video programming have blown up. The latter even has more viewers than TV, for the first time ever.

Other increases include features on some of the biggest apps out there. Facebook’s Dynamic Ads have come to Instagram and Amazon launched a new video program, while YouTube is reportedly testing a new messaging feature.

Dynamic Ads on Instagram just one Facebook update

In addition to its brand new look, Instagram got Facebook’s Dynamic Ads this week. The ads feature specific products consumers have previously expressed interest in, this week. In addition, they give brands the ability to showcase their products automatically, rather than tailoring creative for each one, which had long been a pain point for Instagram advertisers.


One early tester – Jewlr, a Canadian jewelry retailer – targeted American cart abandoners. With Dynamic Ads, which have a similar offering for travel brands such as Marriott and Trivago, the brand saw a 300 percent increase in return on ad spending.

That’s not all for Facebook, which also rolled out new options for Custom Audiences this week. The update allows advertisers to target people who have visited their sites more recently or frequently, or for longer periods of time.

Original digital video programming now has more viewers than TV, says IAB

One of the dominant themes of this year’s NewFronts has been original online video content. Media giants like YouTube, AOL and BuzzFeed are clearly onto something, as new research from the IAB highlights how massive that particular medium has become.

According to the organization’s 2016 Original Digital Video Study, 26 percent of adults now watch original digital video programming. Its viewership has grown to 63 million from 45 million in 2013, surpassing that of TV for the first time.

This is good news for advertisers: males aged 18 to 34, the largest digital video consumers, have a 31 percent greater ad recall for this type of content than they did a year ago. A third of the respondents also said that digital video ads are “more interesting” and “fun,” compared with TV ads.

Google reportedly working on a program to reduce ad blocking

As more and more people watch original digital video programming, they also continue blocking ads. On Monday, Adblock Plus, the biggest name in the ad blocking space, announced that it had surpassed 100 million active installations. The software’s user base has nearly doubled since January alone.


However, despite being an ad blocker, Adblock Plus doesn’t block all ads across the board. A program called Acceptable Ads does allow visibility for certain white-listed advertisers. Along those lines, Google is reportedly working on an acceptable ads policy of its own.

Intrusive, irrelevant ads are often cited as the reason behind the stratospheric rise in ad blocking. Google has enough clout to demand that its advertisers adhere to certain standards, reducing the disruptive nature of ads and ultimately hoping to reduce the use of ad blocking software.

Video Direct puts Amazon in competition with YouTube

With all the time people spend watching video on Facebook, the social media giant has become YouTube’s most formidable opponent. But Amazon may take that title, having launched Amazon Video Direct on Tuesday.

With the new product, anyone can make a video on Amazon and distribute it in one of four ways. The videos can be watched by anyone with ads; rented or sold digitally; sold as an add-on subscription; or included in Prime Video. Depending on which method they choose, creators can receive royalties, or a percentage of ad revenue or digital purchase.

Starting June 1, Amazon Video Direct will also have a stars program that rewards the top-performing video creators from a pool of money. Early partners include Mattel, Mashable, Business Insider and Condé Nast Entertainment.


…and new messaging feature puts YouTube in competition with everyone else

B. Bonin Bough of Mondelēz isn’t the only one who sees value in messaging apps. On Thursday, Wired reported that YouTube is currently testing a messaging feature in its app.

The messaging capability will be a separate tab within YouTube’s app that simplifies sharing, eliminating the need to copy and paste links into emails or texts. This move will make YouTube more competitive with Facebook and Snapchat, and now Amazon, too. As the other platforms’ video views catch up, it will also keep YouTube’s videos on YouTube.


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